Law Enforcement

  • Domestic terrorismDHS intelligence assessment highlights threat posed by sovereign citizen groups

    U.S. security officials have long considered sovereign citizen groups as a growing threat to domestic security. In a 2014 surveyof state and local law enforcement agencies, leaders of these agencies listed members of sovereign citizen groups as the top domestic terror threat, ahead of foreign Islamist or domestic militia groups. The U.S. government has primarily focused its counterterrorism efforts on the threats posed by foreign extremist groups, including Islamic State and al-Qaeda, but the problem posed by domestic would-be terrorists has not been overlooked. A new DHS intelligence assessment, released earlier this month, focuses on the domestic terror threat from sovereign citizen extremists.

  • SurveillanceKouachi intelligence failure: The struggle to balance security, privacy, budgetary concerns

    About seven months before the attacks on the Paris office of Charlie Hebdo, French domestic intelligence agency monitored Saïd Kouachi for at least two years, and his younger brother Chérif Kouachi for at least a year. The surveillance of both brothers had led nowhere, and was later considered a non-priority for intelligence officials. The Kouachi brothers did not appear to be an imminent threat, and it would have taken twenty-five agents to monitor the two brothers around the clock. Experts say that the failures and missteps by French law enforcement in the Kouachi case should be a lesson to other Western governments which may have relaxed surveillance practices targeted at would-be terrorists in order to comply with budget cuts or out of genuine concern for civil liberties.

  • Lone wolvesWhite House summit on extremism focuses on lone wolves

    Today the White House will host community leaders and local law enforcement officials for the second day of a summit on “countering violent extremism,” the purpose of which is to highlight domestic and international efforts to prevent extremists from radicalizing and recruiting individuals or groups in the United States and abroad to commit acts of violence. The administration’s counter extremism efforts reflect an understanding that lone wolf terror acts will continue to be a threat for law enforcement as much as acts by organized groups such as al-Qaeda.

  • Domestic terrorismLone-wolf domestic terrorism on the rise

    As the White House prepares to host a major summit this week examining the threat of violent extremism, a new study of domestic terrorism released last week finds that the vast majority of this violence is coming from “lone wolves” or “leaderless resistance” groups composed of no more than two people. The report examines more than sixty domestic terror incidents. Almost three-quarters of the incidents were carried out, or planned, by a lone wolf, a single person acting without accomplices. Ninety percent of the incidents were the work of no more than two persons.

  • Rail securityRailway stations should adopt some of the security strategies deployed by airports: Experts

    A 2013 study by the U.K. Home Officerecorded crime rates across every postcode in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, and found that four of the top ten U.K. crime hot spots are major railway stations. Railway stations experience large volume of crime due to their highly congested environments, which gives pickpockets and thieves opportunities to find a target. Large stations are also introducing more retail outlets, which increases the likelihood of more shoplifting offenses. Experts note that airports have many of those same characteristics, but they fare far better in crime rates. These experts argue that rail stations should adopt some of the strategies deployed by airports around the world.

  • RadicalizationU.S. Muslim leaders uneasy about counter-radicalization pilot program

    Later this month, the White House and the Justice Departmentwill hostthe Countering Violent Extremism summit and meet with leaders of America’s Muslim communities to launch a programaimed at curbing Islamist radicalization in the United States. The Twin Cities, Boston, and Los Angeles have been selected as pilot cities for the program, but some Muslim leaders are concerned that federal law enforcement agencies will use the program to gather intelligence. American Muslim leaders want to be reassured that the program will not be used for blanket surveillance of their communities.

  • CounterterrorismNYPD launches counterterrorism unit

    In the coming months, the New York Police Department (NYPD) patrol officers will spend more time visiting community members to learn about their public safety concerns, but the department has also launched a new unit, consisting of officers equipped with high-powered weapons that could be used for both keeping protests from becoming unruly and guarding terrorist targets such as Times Square. The Strategic Response Group (SRG), announced last Thursday, will soon respond to terror threats throughout the city, said Police Commissioner William J. Bratton. Since Bratton’s announcement, the NYPD has clarified that the SRG will only work on counterterror initiatives.

  • MediaScotland Yard asks TV to limit live coverage of hostage incidents

    Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, the commissioner of Scotland Yard, has publicly requested that television news organizations consider not broadcasting live images of police or special forces attempting to storm any terrorist siege in the city out of fear of further jeopardizing lives.The recent sieges in Paris and Sydney have led security officials like Hogan-Howe worry that the intensive TV coverage could also inform the attackers about police tactics.

  • ImmigrationIn U-Visa limbo: Undocumented immigrants who are victims of crimes

    Many immigrants who are victims of crimes, along with their close family members, remain at risk and are denied the opportunity to live and work in the United States as long as Congress fails to increase the number of U-visaswhich immigration authorities can grant per year. Congress established the program in 2000 as part of the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Actto provide an incentive for immigrant victims to report crimes to law enforcement without fear of deportation. Applicants must allege that they have been the victim of a serious crime and provide a certification form signed by law enforcement confirming the applicant’s help or potential help in investigating the crime. USCIS, which processes the applications in the order they were received, has not evaluated any applications submitted after December 2013.

  • GunsSmart-gun technology faces many hurdles

    At last Wednesday’s Seattle International Smart Gun Symposium, lawmakers, smart-gun industry representatives, and gun-safety advocates met to discuss the future of “authorized” guns which only discharge in the hands of pre-authorized owners. Representatives from Sentinl, maker of an add-on fingerprint sensor for existing handguns; TriggerSmart, an RFID-enabled system for existing and brand-new guns; and Allied Biometrix, a firm developing fully integrated biometric sensors which unlock a gun once they sense an individual’s “reflexive actions” and “grip style,” attended the event, though these companies do not yet have a ready-for-market product.

  • RadicalizationFrance faces up to problem of Islamist radicalization in prisons

    Since this month’s Paris attacks, counterterrorism officials have focused their attention on French prisons where, they believe, a significant number of the country’s extremists adopted their radical Islamist ideology. About 7.5 percent of the French population is Muslim, but Muslims make up more than half the inmates in French prisons. Extremists often find it easier to spread violent ideology in prison than outside of prison. Most prisoners spend up to nine hours a day together working and later in the prison yard, with minimal supervision. Prison guards, who say they find it difficult to spot extremists, are each typically responsible for 100 prisoners.

  • TerrorismBelgium confronting home-grown jihadist threat

    Belgium is Europe’s biggest per capita contributor of fighters to Syria and law enforcement officials fear that at least seventy of 350 Belgian fighters have returned home equipped with skills they learned on the battle field. The Belgian government had brought the concern to national attention in an October document warning about the “danger of violent jihadism that threatens to spread in our society.” Belgian officials have not found a link between the Paris attacks earlier this month and planned attacks in Belgium in the following days – attacks thwarted by swift police preemptive action — but common elements include: a clustering of radicals in a small area, the connection between petty criminality and jihadist violence, and the role of prison as an incubator for extremism.

  • EspionageNYC Russian spy ring busted

    In a federal complaint unsealed Monday, prosecutors say that Russian spies used talk about books, or tickets for sporting events or concerts, as code words for conducting espionage against the United States. On Monday in New York, law enforcement arrested one of the men, Evgeny Buryakov, 39, who posed as an employee in the New York City office of a Russian bank. The two other men listed in the complaint, Igor Sporyshev and Victor Podobnyy, had diplomatic immunity and no longer live in the United States. U.S. officials said the men were gathering intelligence related to possible U.S. sanctions on Russia and U.S. efforts to develop alternative energy resources, in addition to trying to recruit Americans in high positions.

  • TerrorismWomen more active in extremist Islamist groups than previously thought

    About 10 percent of ISIS recruits from Europe, and about 20 percent of recruits from France, are women. Though they tend to play a supportive role in the Islamic extremism narrative, women can be just as radical. “What’s very striking is that she’s not an exception; she’s an example of a trend,” one expert says of Hayat Boumeddiene, the 26-year old partner of Paris gunman Amedy Coulibaly. “There tends to be an assumption with women that they’re doing it under influence, they’re being forced or tricked. But I think there’s a more complicated story here, feelings of alienation.”

  • RadicalizationNYPD’s radicalization report criticized

    In a Sunday morning interview on 970 AM The Answer, New York Police Department(NYPD) deputy commissioner for Intelligence and Counterterrorism John Miller criticized a 7-year old report on Islamic radicalization in New York City. The report, “Radicalization in the West: The Homegrown Threat,” published by the NYPD Intelligence Division under former police commissioner Ray Kelly, came under fire after a series of articlesdetailed some of the division’s counterterrorism operations, including the monitoring of prominent Muslims and Muslim communities in New York City. Those articles contributed to the closure of the unit, which conducted the NYPD’s surveillance operations on New York’s Muslim communities.